Ethics and Negotiation - Case study

Essay by cauchemar81University, Bachelor'sA-, July 2005

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Case Study: BP Texas Refinery


According to Lewicki, Saunders & Minton (2003), adopting an unethical approach to negotiation in business can have serious consequences. A recent explosion at the British Petroleum (BP) Texas refinery on 24 March, 2005 reiterated this and demonstrated the effect of an unethical approach to negotiation with the death of 15 contract workers.

Ethical behaviour refers to the standards of conduct such as honesty, fairness, responsibility and trust. (Lewicki et al 2003) These standards are broadly applied and determine whether a course of action is right or wrong in a given situation. (Lewicki et al 2003) According to Es (1955), advocates of the 'absolutist' position hold a rigid view of what is right and wrong. In contrast, a 'relativist' approach would suggest ethical behaviour be contingent in nature, therefore having no set definition of what is right and wrong.

History is fraught with examples of unethical behaviour, from Nazi Germany of 1945 to recent atrocities in the Balkans and Rwanda.

However, in those instances there was no negotiation involved. There are also numerous examples of unethical behaviour adopted in negotiation that have occurred in modern society. These have ranged from large scale unethical business issues such as the recent BP Texas refinery's failure on safety provisions; Patrick's wharf workers incident and the Hardie's asbestos compensation dispute; to smaller everyday unscrupulous business dealings.

Research into ethics and negotiation is primarily focused towards examining the standard of truth. (Lewicki et al 2003) Attempting to define 'truth' raises a number of controversial issues. For example, 'what constitutes a lie?' and 'are there situations where not telling the truth may be considered acceptable, or even necessary?' (Lewicki et al 2003: pp.167)

The inherent competitive nature of most negotiating situations would suggest a certain degree of deceptive behaviour was a...